"Where Fillmore County News Comes First"
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Fri, May 16th, 2003
Posted in Features
Posted in Features
Sixteen years ago, a family situation spurred Spring Valley’s Dave Thouin into a career change that would eventually lead him to a position as a Charge Nurse at the Spring Valley Care Center (SVCC). Thouin’s son, Christopher, was born with a multi-handicapping birth defect known as Spina Bifida in 1986.
Thouin, a former Navy Corpsman, who was working in public relations and sales at the time, was so impressed with the medical care his son received at Mayo Clinic that he decided to pursue a career in the medical field himself. "After witnessing how well Chris responded to the wonderful care given to him when he was born, I just felt I wanted to give something back," Thouin said. After years of study, he received his Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) degree and eventually his Registered Nursing (RN) degree and is now among the 38 staff members at the SVCC honored recently during National Nurses week for their dedication and support of residents and families. The theme of this year’s national celebration was "Nurses: Lifting Spirits, Touching Lives" and is personified in the staff at SVCC. "We have a very loving and caring staff here," said Pam Kunert, Director of Nursing. "Our staff works very hard to make resident’s feel like this is their home – we try to make their lives as happy as we can," she said. "We feel like we’re giving back to our community by caring for residents who were very vital parts of their communities," Thouin added. "We’re also here to comfort and support families who are sometimes reluctant to place their family member in a long-term care facility." Arlys Markham, a 26-year veteran of the SVCC says that describing the care center as a home with heart is not just a figure of speech. I’ve stayed here this long because this is a good nursing home – we really do care about our residents here," she said. Markham is one of six LPNs on staff. Also on staff at the care center are four RNs, 20 Nursing Assistants, five Trained Medication Aids and three Helping Hand assistants. When combined, the total number of years of care-giving experience among the staff at SVCC is 245. While President Bush proclaimed that our nation’s health care system is “world-class and a model for skill and innovation with a pace of discovery that is helping American’s live better and longer lives” -- long-term care facilities in the state are experiencing crippling budget cuts. "Budget cuts are definitely our biggest challenge," Kunert said. "There is a fine line between being fiscally responsible and meeting the reality of needs that exist from our residents." Other challenges facing the SVCC, and the health care industry as a whole, relate to regulatory processes such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). HIPAA was the result of efforts by the Clinton Administration and congressional healthcare reform proponents to reform healthcare. The goals and objectives of this legislation were to streamline industry inefficiencies, reduce paperwork, make it easier to detect and prosecute fraud and abuse and enable workers of all professions to change jobs, even if they (or family members) had pre-existing medical conditions. Easier said than done. With new government regulations comes a new learning curve, mindset and a revamping of processes and procedures. The privacy clause of this act, for example, requires health care workers to provide information only to a patient's Power of Attorney (POA) or other family member designated by the POA. "It’s important for visitors and family members to understand that this new regulation restricts us from giving out any personal information about a resident unless given directly to the POA or people designated by the POA," Thouin said. While the health care industry has experienced staffing shortages for some time, the Spring Valley Care Center currently has a full staff. "We’re very fortunate to have the staff that we do," Kunert said. Nursing has been described as an art as well as a science and is a profession that embraces the varied interests and strengths of those who are called to serve others. For those working in long-term care at the SVCC, care giving has a special meaning. "Our residents are part of the "Greatest Generation" – they’re a living history," Thouin said. “There’s a lot of love and respect that you give and receive working here," Kunert added. "What you give to residents comes back to you 40 times greater." Nicole Joy, a LPN for the past two years at the SVCC started her career in Urgent Care in a hospital, but switched to long-term care when her husband’s job brought the family to Spring Valley. "In a hospital, patients come and go and it’s hard to bond and build relationships," she said. "I enjoy visiting and reminiscing with the resident’s here.” While Joy finds working with elderly residents fulfilling, it’s also emotional. "The hardest thing is getting so attached -- these people are like part of our own family," she said. When a resident dies, staff gathers together to provide each other much needed support. To mark the occasion of National Nurses and National Nursing Home Week, a series of contests and fun activities were planned throughout the week for staff and residents. Mary Catherine Roberts, 91, is a long-time Spring Valley resident who moved to the care center about two years ago. She seemed genuinely happy to hear that nurses were being recognized this past week. "They’ve been awfully good to me," she said. "We’re lucky to have a place like this so close." Helen Casady, 90, a resident in the Assisted Living part of the care center complex echoed those sentiments. "I appreciate the staff here and will always remember how they helped me when I came here five years ago--it’s just unbelievable what they’ve done for me," she said. Casady is known by staff for her pleasant personality and positive attitude. "Evidently it’s good medicine," she said. "I can’t believe at age 90 I can enjoy my days the way I do." As National Nurses Week culminated on the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the staff at Spring Valley Care Center continued with the daily work at hand. "We invite the community to come and visit us to see what we’re all about," Thouin said. "We’d like the community to be proud of the care we provide," added Kunert. Carol Thouin can be contacted at email@example.com